Just four in 10 people in France want to have a vaccination against Covid-19, a poll showed Tuesday, as concern also grows over the slow start to the country’s immunisation campaign.
According to the poll by Ipsos Global Advisor in partnership with the World Economic Forum, just 40 percent of French want to take the vaccine.
This puts it behind even other laggards like Russia on 43 percent and South Africa on 53 percent, let alone those countries where eagerness to take the vaccine is high such as China on 80 percent and Britain on 77 percent.
Fear of side effects is the reason most often given for not wanting the vaccine, according to the poll.
In the United States, where a mass vaccination campaign has now begun in earnest, 69 percent of people now want the vaccine, a rise on October.
France began its vaccination campaign on Sunday along with most of the rest of the EU, targeting residents in care homes first.
However fewer than 100 people were immunised in the first three days in France, a far slower pace than in neighbouring Germany, let alone in the US or UK.
Rebuffing criticism on social media, a health ministry official said: “We have not set out for a 100-metre sprint but a marathon.”
“The start is cautious but we will step it up and vaccinate on a very wide scale,” the official said, noting that the authorities face a “very strong scepticism on the part of the French population”.
The official said there was no problem with supplies, with 500,000 vaccine doses now set to arrive in France every week.
The Ipsos Global Advisor poll was carried out in 15 countries online among more than 13,500 adults including some 1,000 in France.
With no let-up in infection rates in France, President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday chaired a meeting of top ministers and health officials to discuss the crisis.
Some regional leaders have pushed for at least local-level lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus but it is not yet clear what strategy the government will adopt after the New Year holidays.
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French president Macron’s desire to ‘piss off’ unvaccinated individuals triggers outrage
Macron spoke candidly during an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien, during which he said that he wanted to make life difficult for individuals who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. The French “sanitary pass” has prompted a number of protests and stiff opposition while the country nears 75% full vaccination.
“I really want to piss them off, and we’ll carry on doing this – to the end,” Macron said three months ahead of a presidential election. “I won’t send [unvaccinated people] to prison, so we need to tell them, from 15 January, you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. You will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theatre. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema.”
The French Parliament heard Macron’s comments during a debate over his proposed bill to tighten restrictions for unvaccinated individuals, leading to a swift and strong uproar in response.
His opponents have labeled the comments “unworthy” of a president.
“Even if one doesn’t share their choice, they have broken none of our country’s laws,” Marine Le Pen, Macron’s chief opponent in the upcoming election, told reporters late Tuesday. “He is continuing his policy of division, of pitting the French against one another.”
She later tweeted “A president shouldn’t say that…Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office.”
Leftist politician Jean-Luc Melanchon described the remarks as an “astonishing confession,” according to the BBC.
But Macron’s allies have defended the comments, with Stéphane Séjourné, a member of the European Parliament, arguing on Twitter that unvaccinated individuals have “bothered” the French by “forcing the rest of the population to endure restrictions.”
Debate over Macron’s bill continue into Wednesday as opponents still seek to delay its passage. Some of his supporters claimed to have received death threats because they are backing the legislation, The New York Times reported.
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